Constable – Sky as the Chief Sentiment

In his “Letter from Hampstead, October 23, 1821,” the great landscape painter, John Constable, writes about the great communicative capacity of the skyscape:

“That landscape painter who does not make his skies a very material part of his composition, neglects to avail himself of one of his greatest aids. Sir Joshua Reynolds, speaking of the landscapes of Titian, of Salvator, and of Claude, says: ‘Even their skies seem to sympathize with their subjects.’ I have often been advised to consider my sky as ‘a white sheet thrown behind the objects’. Certainly, if the sky is obtrusive, as mine are, it is bad; but if it is evaded, as mine are not, it is worse; it must and always shall with me make an effectual part of the composition. It will be difficult to name a class of landscape in which the sky is not the key not, the standard of scale, and the chief organ of sentiment.”

Source: Joshua Charles Taylor, ed. Nineteenth-century Theories of Art. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 300.